Helping Our Peninsula's Environment


How Do I Get Government To Do Something Good?

(c) Copyright 2001-2002 David Dilworth

Getting a governmental agency to do something right is a little different than stopping them from doing something wrong. Not necessarily harder, but it usually takes a bit longer. 

* First, Clearly Identify your Request. Both what it is and what it isn't. Write it down. Wait a day then rewrite it so it is absolutely clear. It is generally OK to modify your request as you ask for support from other people and groups but I don't recommend major changes once you have people on board unless you are all in a meeting together.

 * Second, Identify Which Government Official in which Governmental Agency can do what you need.

Find out which Governmental Agencies have authority to approve it. It may be a City, County, Water District, Transportation Agency and so on.

Then you need to find out the name and direct phone number of the Agency's head staff person, not the elected people. Get their phone number, address, fax and email addresses.

 * Third, get as many people and groups as possible to join in written support. Try to get collect at least five letters from supporters. The letters are addressed to the head staff person of the Agency (e.g. General Manager of Agency).

You might Call and Meet with other Agencies who might have a reason to support your request and ask for their support in a letter.

When letters are ready call and arrange meeting with the General Manager of the agency and ask for his/her agency to adopt your request.

Take 2 or 3 others - as you feel comfortable (but always take at least one other person as a witness.) Generally the more influential the better.


* Meeting Protocol

1. Begin with "We respectfully request..."

2. Ask about her/his concerns with the change. (Almost every change has drawbacks to somebody.)

3. Close of meeting - Thank her/him for her/his consideration. Then ask WHEN you can expect an answer. (Very important).

Any wait more than 45 days is unacceptable. Two weeks is reasonable. Two days is very good even if s/he intends to deny your request.

If s/he ever refuses, for whatever reason, you take it to his/her boss - the elected Board and the media. The reasons we give the top paid staffer first chance to help is -

  • For them to raise points we need to address, and
  • So they have a chance to avoid embarrassment by a public controversy and to give them the opportunity to exercise their authority to do something reasonable and good.


If the Agency Head turns you down - its time for Political Action -

* Write a Letter to the Editor of your daily newspaper to let people know what is proposed and what they can do. Include your phone number of address if you choose. Newspaper Letters

* Contact each elected official who will decide on the project to let them know of your concerns and to ask them their thoughts on the activity.


* Don't Forget to Celebrate when you Win.

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This Page Last Updated 6/13/02